The New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) has announced their support for a New Brunswick Liberal Party plan to remove the parental and spousal contributions from student loan calculation.
The NBSA released a statement on Oct. 21 praising the move as “a positive step forward for students from middle-class families.” The statement asserts that “1,300 less loans were distributed in the year immediately following the reinstatement [of the parental and spousal contribution], amounting to over $7 million less in financial aid.”
The Executive Director of the NBSA is Pat Joyce, last year’s Mount Allison Students’ Union (MASU) President. The Executive Director is responsible for researching and advocating policy on behalf of the NBSA. Joyce expressed support for the plan, saying, “accessible, affordable post–secondary education is crucial to New Brunswick’s economic sustainability, and we look forward to continuing to work with all parties to ensure post-secondary education is a priority during next year’s election.”
The parental and spousal contributions to student loans were eliminated by the Liberal government of Premier Shawn Graham in 2006. The Progressive Conservative government of current Premier David Alward reinstated the contributions in 2011.
When the contributions were reinstated, Finance Minister Blaine Higgs said the government could save $1.6 million a year by limiting the number of student loans issued.
Liberal leader Brian Gallant commented on the policy change in a media release, saying, “By removing parental and spousal contributions to the needs assessment, we open doors and give more people access to education and training programs,” continuing that, “This is critical to help New Brunswickers and build our economy by adding more educated, skilled people to our workforce.”
MASU President Melissa O’Rourke said that the NBSA, in conjunction with youth electoral participation, is a way to advance a political agenda that favours the interests of students.
“At the end of the day, when it comes to creating government policy an individual’s strongest voice can be at a polling both.”
“Having a support system like the New Brunswick Student Alliance to start that conversation and interact with the parties to make sure that the parties put these policies forward is a first step, but I definitely believe the polling booth is a place to be heard,” added O’Rourke.
As it stands, the parental and spousal contribution calculation prevents students from receiving a student loan from the government if their parents or spouse makes more than a certain amount of money annually. The contribution is still considered even if the parents or spouse of the student do not contribute financially to the student’s education. This renders some students ineligible for government loans, which have more favourable terms for debtors than do commercial loans.
None of the three major parties in New Brunswick responded to The Argosy’s requests for comment by press time.
The NBSA represents the broad interests of some 13,000 university students in the province, representing five students’ unions. According to its mission statement, it “is a democratically elected student organization that effectively represents and advocates for New Brunswick students on post secondary education issues.”